Last week, I read that a vast percentage of the body is entirely new at any given time--blood cells, tendon, epidermis. That even our bones are breaking down slowly and replacing themselves every few years. The broken ring finger of my childhood no longer an indeterminate crack in the metacarpal. The myth that every seven years or so, we are essentially a new person, the credit of our bodies wiped clean and spotless, but our parts still harboring holdouts. Like the woman in the quaint Victorian as the skyline springs up around her. Ova and neurons and the lens of the eye. At any given moment, most of my body has forgotten most every man I've ever slept with, but my tail bone still aches sometimes from a fall in the snow a decade ago.
Logic tells me that in 7 years, all of me will have grown use to this motherlessness. Each element of my body swept clean and new. But the holdouts, no doubt, grow shifty with their intentions. The synapses misfiring at unexpected moments. The face in my mirror hers more than it ever was mine. The sudden flood of panic like a cold wave sluicing the shore. The dreams that flare all night-- her dead, then alive, then dead again.
The morning it happens, I wake with unusual and untimely cramps, as if this body, torn from that body 40 odd years ago, felt the again tearing away even from a 100 miles away. Like a tremor in the subcortex remembered after the fact. That probably when she breathed her last, I was walking down Michigan Ave in the sun, stopping to snap a blurry picture of the last autumn leaves outside the museum deleted later that night. Or the orange flowered dress I wore tossed in the trash, too summery for early November. Too scant and bright for a trip home to cremate one's mother. How I'd never be able to wear it again without thinking this is what you were wearing.
Already, my skin has mostly forgotten the word mother, but in winter grows dry and flakes away imprecisely . My stomach flora already moved on with things. Only my neurons crying on the bus over lost banana bread recipes. So it goes, each particle replacing daughter bit by bit during the night, until eventually I wake without thinking about it. Sometimes, hours into the day before grief knocks me against doorjambs, the back of my office chair. Already, the body shedding what I remember of touch to the January landscape.